Courts

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Update: Appellate Court Rejects Bullock Appeal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 11:17 AM

Gary Lee Bullock stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, at his arraignment in January of 2014. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Gary Lee Bullock stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, at his arraignment in January of 2014.
UPDATE: A panel of California Appellate Court justices today rejected Gary Lee Bullock’s bid to overturn his life sentence for the vicious murder of beloved local priest Eric Freed, whose battered body was found in the St. Bernard Church rectory on New Year’s Day 2014.

In unusually swift turnaround, the decision came down less than a week after oral arguments were presented Dec. 6 in a San Francisco courtroom with the judges summarily rejecting claims that Bullock’s Miranda rights were violated and evidence did not support his torture conviction.

“In our view, the trial court could reasonably infer from the extent and pattern of wounds that torture was not merely the means of killing Father Freed, and that torture was not merely incidental to the killing of Father Freed,” the unpublished opinion states. “Rather, the severance of the tongue and other injuries were inflicted for the separate objective of causing extreme pain. Substantial evidence supports the trial court’s ruling.”

Read the full unpublished opinion here.

PREVIOUSLY:  Nearly four years after the crime that shook Humboldt County, three California justices in San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday on whether to reverse Gary Lee Bullock's murder conviction.


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Saturday, December 2, 2017

County Swaps Attorneys, Challenges $2.5 Million Wrongful Death Verdict

Posted By on Sat, Dec 2, 2017 at 2:45 PM

Daren Borges and his mother, Stephany Borges. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Daren Borges and his mother, Stephany Borges.
The County of Humboldt is asking for a new trial in the civil case that in August resulted in a jury verdict finding the county and its correctional officers liable in the 2014 jail death of Daren Borges and awarding $2.5 million in damages to his family.

In addition to filing motions last week asking a court to throw out the jury’s verdicts in the case and grant a new trial, the defendants in the case — the county of Humboldt, former Sheriff Mike Downey and correctional officers Tim Hershberger, David Swim, Terri Bittner and Tim Hammer — also filed papers seeking to have local attorney Nancy Delaney replaced with John Whitefleet of Sacramento’s Porter Scott law firm as lead attorney in the case.

On Aug. 28, a federal jury found correctional officers failed to follow policy and were indifferent to Borges’ obvious medical needs when they opted not to have him medically screened while booking him into the Humboldt County jail about two hours before he was found dead of a methamphetamine overdose in a jail sobering cell. The jury, which deliberated for about 10 hours before returning its unanimous verdicts, also found that Humboldt County had failed to adequately train its correctional officers.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Public Defender Reportedly Got $25K in Severance Pay

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 11:32 AM

David Marcus - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Marcus
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors reportedly agreed to give embattled former Public Defender David Marcus two-months severance pay when he resigned his position, according to Marcus’ letter of resignation.

That would equate to about $25,000 given Marcus’ $150,000 annual salary.

It’s unclear when the board reached this agreement or how it was finalized. With 24-hours notice, the county scheduled a special closed session board meeting for 4:15 p.m. on Nov. 22, the day before Thanksgiving, with two items on the agenda: discussion of the lawsuit challenging Marcus’ hiring and the review of an unnamed county employee. The board met in closed session for about an hour and 45 minutes before adjourning, reporting no final action out of closed session.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Griego to Dismiss Public Defender Suit

Posted By on Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 11:49 AM

FILE
  • file
Local attorney Patrik Griego announced this morning that he will be dismissing the lawsuit he brought challenging David Marcus' appointment as Humboldt County public defender in light of Marcus' resignation.

In the short release (copied below), Griego notes that his lawsuit was challenging whether Marcus met minimum state qualifications for the job when the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors hired him to succeed Kevin Robinson, who'd recently retired from the post. Marcus' controversial tenure came to an abrupt end when he resigned his post Wednesday night, hours after the board spent almost two hours in closed session discussing Griego's lawsuit and reviewing the performance of an unnamed county employee. Sources told the Journal earlier Wednesday that Marcus had packed up the personal belongings in his office and left at about 2:30 p.m.

It's currently unclear if the board has appointed an interim public defender in the wake of Marcus' departure, which came a few weeks before Griego's lawsuit was scheduled for a pivotal hearing in the case.

Griego had previously offered not to pursue the recovery of fees and costs  — which he estimated had run up to $125,000 in the case — if Marcus left county employment, whether it be via resignation or termination. Griego said this afternoon that he will not be seeking to recover those costs from the county.

County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck was unavailable for comment when the Journal called this morning.

See Griego's full press release copied below:


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Friday, November 24, 2017

David Marcus' Resignation Ends Tumultuous Tenure

Posted By on Fri, Nov 24, 2017 at 3:26 PM

David Marcus - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Marcus
Supervisor Virginia Bass confirmed that David Marcus has stepped down from the county’s public defender post after a tumultuous nine months in office.

“He sent a letter on Wednesday evening informing us of his resignation,” Bass said Friday.

Marcus’ sudden departure came after the Board of Supervisors held a special closed session meeting — called 24 hours earlier — to “consider the evaluation of performance of a public employee and to hear complaints or charges brought against the employee by another person or employee."

Also up for discussion was a lawsuit filed by local defense attorney Patrik Griego that questioned whether Marcus met the minimum qualifications for the public defender’s job as required under California law.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

As Supes Prepare for Thanksgiving Eve Meeting, Marcus Packs Up His Desk

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 3:14 PM

David Marcus - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Marcus
UPDATE: Multiple public defenders’ office employees have confirmed that Marcus has packed up his office, cleaned out his desk and left without addressing employees.

Previously:

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will meet late this afternoon in closed session to discuss the pending lawsuit against controversial Public Defender David Marcus. According to Clerk of the Board Kathy Hayes, the meeting was announced exactly 24 hours in advance via the county's website and posted outside the chambers. No supervisors were available for comment this afternoon.


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Uncertainty Surrounds Monday's Public Defender Hearing

Posted By on Sat, Nov 11, 2017 at 5:35 PM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
The lawsuit challenging embattled Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus’ hiring is bound for a hearing Monday but it’s hard to say what to expect. It could be the decisive moment in the 9-month-old lawsuit, an evidentiary hearing on the merits that ultimately answers whether Marcus meets minimum state qualifications for the post. Or the parties could convene in visiting Judge Marjorie Carter’s court simply to set some future hearing dates.

Local attorney Patrik Griego, who filed the suit on behalf of current and former public defender employees and clients, as well as a few local taxpayers, had asked Carter to schedule the Nov. 13 date for a hearing to determine whether Marcus meets the state qualification of having been a “practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding” his hire. But in its reply to Griego’s motion, the county is arguing that Griego is trying to hurry the case forward, depriving the county of its right to depose witnesses and research its defense.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Squireses File for Bankruptcy as Auction Looms

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Workers board up 216, 218 and 220 Third St. after the city condemned the properties. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Workers board up 216, 218 and 220 Third St. after the city condemned the properties.
Eureka’s most notorious landlords Floyd and Betty Squires filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week in an apparent bid to prevent more than two dozen of their properties from hitting the auction block later this month.

According to the bankruptcy forms, the couple owes between $1 million and $10 million — the same as their estimated assets — to some 55 to 99 creditors. Those include Mark Adams, a Santa Monica-based attorney who initiated the foreclosure proceedings to collect the $158,000 he’s owed by the couple under a court order. (See “Squireses’ Properties: Going, Going, Gone?," Nov. 9, 2017.)

In an interview with the Journal for that story, Adams predicted this might happen, saying Floyd Squires was “going to try some kind of stunt, like filing for bankruptcy.”

The Squireses attorney, Bradford Floyd, who is listed as one of the couple’s top 20 unsecured creditors with $125,000 in claims, said last week that the “attempted” foreclosure “would be stopped.”

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Squireses' Properties? Going, Going, Gone?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 10:07 AM

The city tears down a house owned by the Squireses on H Street. - COURTESY OF CITY OF EUREKA
  • Courtesy of city of Eureka
  • The city tears down a house owned by the Squireses on H Street.
The city of Eureka originally selected Santa Monica-based attorney Mark Adams to help bring more than two dozen properties owned by Floyd and Betty Squires up to code. Now he’s hoping to see them auctioned off — and he intends to buy them himself.

If that were to happen on the scheduled Nov. 27 sale date, Adams says the lives of the people currently living in the assortment of homes and apartments owned by the couple would “change for the better.”

“Right now, that’s what’s intended,” Adams says in a phone interview from his Southern California office. “If we’re the successful bidder, then we would literally own the properties and we have a property management firm lined up to take over. … It’s not bravado to say people’s live are going to change for the better … We’re ready to go.”


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Friday, October 20, 2017

Hearing Set in Public Defender Case Amid Settlement Offer, Allegations of Delay Tactics

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 2:28 PM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
The Humboldt County Superior Court has set a hearing next month to determine whether embattled Public Defender David Marcus meets the minimum state qualifications to hold his job. But Patrik Griego, the attorney who brought the lawsuit challenging Marcus’ hire, is worried the county is engaging in a pattern of “gamesmanship” intended to delay the lawsuit until it becomes moot.

On Sept. 22, visiting Judge Marjorie Carter denied a county request to dismiss the lawsuit, which alleges Marcus didn’t meet the minimum state qualification for the position requiring any candidate to have been a “practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding” his or her hire.

Marcus, whom the board of supervisors hired Feb. 8, was living in Florida at the time of his hire and had been primarily working as an insurance adjuster for the year prior. During a deposition in the case, Marcus testified that during that year he also worked as a contract attorney for the Walnut Creek law firm Cella, Lange and Cella, which is owned by his good friend, but conceded he didn’t appear in court or author any legal pleadings during that span. He also also testified that he had no contract with the law firm and no records of his hours worked.

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